Having some kind of automatic system set up to irrigate your plants is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- It frees you up to take care of other garden tasks, as you no longer have to traipse back and forth with a watering can or hose.
- Automated irrigation encourages water conservation: for example, a drip irrigation system can reduce water usage by up to 70%.
- With a carefully set up system there is less chance of overwatering or underwatering. Uneven watering puts plants under stress and leads to bolting (running to seed), woody roots (beetroot) or splitting (carrots and tomatoes).
- Many automated systems deliver water/moisture to the plant root zone. This means that plants can absorb water and nutrients more effectively, while there will be less evaporation of water or standing water on leaves (which can lead to conditions for fungal disease).
- You can safely go on holiday or leave your plants for a few days without worrying that they’re going to be left thirsty and neglected.
Whether you’re growing in pots, raised beds, polytunnels, windowsills or whatever else, we stock a number of automatic watering solutions for your garden or growing setup.
Soaker hoses sit on the soil surface or just below the surface, providing a consistent supply of water that eliminates the need for manual irrigation. These hoses are made from porous material, which means that the water seeps out through the entire length of the hose and directly into the soil. Water loss from evaporation and runoff is reduced using this method. Rather than watering from above, the plant roots absorb the moisture, resulting in a much more efficient delivery.
The FloPro Soaker Hose is resistant to UV damage and algae build up (algae can grow in moist and warm conditions). It claims to save up to 70% of water in comparison to traditional watering methods. For optimum results the FloPro can be placed under the soil surface, at a recommended depth of 15-20cm. It can be placed directly on the soil as well. This soaker hose comes with connectors already attached to make set-up easier, and has a universal fitting designed to fit all outdoor tap types.
We also supply a 50 metre long, 16mm soaker hose from Deker Hort: this is made from a flexible rubber material, and can be used to water capillary matting on benches as well as for surface and undersoil irrigation (as above).
Drip irrigation feeds water directly to the root zone around the plants, meaning less water is lost to evaporation and runoff. By adding an automatic timer to this system, you can arrange the watering cycle for the earlier or later parts of the day when the sun won’t be as strong: we find just after dawn to be the optimum time. Of course, dawn is also an optimum time for a lie-in, so this is where an automated timer can really save you the hassle of traipsing out to the garden first thing. Want to enhance efficiency and water absorption even further? Add a layer of mulch around the drippers.
The Quickcrop Drip Irrigation System
This dripper irrigation system is one we ourselves use in our gardens, and we’ve fleshed it out with some recommended raised bed plans that you can apply depending on how wide your beds are and how they’re set up. It’s a system that can be easily adapted for your garden set-up, whether you’re growing in your garden, polytunnel, patio or greenhouse.
Our systems are designed to begin with a Hozelock type fitting which clicks into your garden hose connection. The drip irrigation system uses the dripper pipe itself as well as a supply pipe which carries the water from your hose connection. Dripper pipes or hoses are thinner than your typical garden hose.
A big advantage of drip irrigation is that it considerably reduces the risk of fungal disease developing due to standing water on leaves and humid conditions: tomato blight for example can spread through water droplets on leaves.
We supply all the parts you need to create your own irrigation system and can do up a plan for you if you need one. These parts include all 16mm fittings, dripper irrigation pipes and supply pipes. Don’t worry if you’re not the ‘DIY’ type, because it’s all a lot simpler than you might think: the joint components are push fit with no tools required, and can be assembled in minutes.
On our site we have a selection of plans and kits for the most common bed sizes. As you can see in the image above, irrigation lines are spaced at 30cm apart and 15cm from the edge of the bed. A valve is included in every plan as - if you have multiple beds - you can turn beds on or off separately to be even more efficient with your water supply.
How much water does a drip irrigation system use?
Dripper lines are available in different specifications but the one we stock emits 1.6 litres per hour from each dripper valve. The dripper valves are spaced 35cm apart on the line.
To work out the hourly consumption of a system you need to divide the total length of dripper line by 35cm and multiply by 1.6. So, for example, the 1.8m x 1.2m bed above will need a total of 7.2 metres of dripper line as it uses 4 x 1.8m lines.
7.2m divided by 35cm is 20, so we have 20 dripper valves emitting 1.6 litres per hour giving a total hourly consumption of 32 litres. This may sound like a lot, but it’s approximately 50% less than a sprinkler system and 30% less than hand watering when used wisely.
If you need more convincing of the benefits of drip irrigation, many local authorities will allow their use during a hosepipe ban.
Big Drippa Drip Watering Kit
This is a mini version of the kind of drip watering system we just described. It’s designed for use in polytunnels (or greenhouses); in general, it’s great for growing areas where there’s no mains water supply. The kit features a 10.5 litre reservoir bag (kind of like an IV bag), six drip valves that can be regulated individually, and 5 metres of black drip tubing. It’s a ‘gravity fed system’, which means that it acts through natural water pressure created by gravity (the reservoir bag is designed to be hung).
The system is somewhat limited in that the reservoir only really provide 24 hours of watering (which should sustain plants for 2 days at least): but even that can be handy if, say, you need to go somewhere at short notice. The Big Drippa can work with pots, containers, raised beds and growbags.
The Hozelock Deluxe Dripper System is a kit that can water up to 20 containers, delivering water from your main supply to the root zone via pressure compensating drippers. The flexible tubing can be cut and adapted to suit your garden layout. Included with the kit is a Select Controller dial with 16 pre-set programmes that can supply water from once a week up to four times a day. The drippers can be positioned to deliver water to the root-zone of your plants with pin-point accuracy. This system will benefit from an added pressure reducer or regulator.
Electronic timers are the key to an automatic watering system, but often they are something you purchase separately from the pipes or hoses themselves. Once a timer has been set up and programmed, you can rest a little easier knowing that the system will take care of your watering for you. Having had some trouble with domestic water timers and leakage in the past, we’ve made sure to stock high quality options that have an anti-leak design.
The Baccara Water Timer has three different irrigation modes, which allow for up to three timed watering sessions per day:
- watering once every day at a set time,
- a single watering on pre-selected days, or
- watering three times a day on selected days.
The pump control unit is kept separate from the valve unit; this is important, because the issue with some other units is that the valve unit can eventually start leaking into the control box and cause damage. The Baccara timer can be connected to your chosen irrigation system and does not need a mains power supply.
We mentioned the Flopro Soaker Hose earlier; well we also stock the FloPro Digital Water Timer. It has an LCD display that can be set to calendar or clock time. You can set the FloPro timer to automatic watering mode or use the manual mode, while a rain delay function allows you to enter in a period of time in which to delay the automatic mode during a spell of wet weather. It can also be programmed with regular irrigation or short interval bursts, while the display will remind you of upcoming irrigation schedules.
One of our newer arrivals, the Easy2Grow Kit is a compact watering system for growing in pots. The ‘Aquavalve’ system uses gravity pressure to transfer water or liquid nutrients from a 47 litre reservoir tank to a watering tray, on which you place the specially-designed pots. Your plants can avail of the water as they need it, and are thus in control of their own unique requirements. A growth medium that includes clay pebbles will help with the wicking action. Because it operates through gravity, this system of watering doesn’t require power, pumps or timers. Once the reservoir is full, it shouldn’t need to be replenished for 2 weeks or so.
The Easy2grow kit should be used with plants that have already established a root system, as the watering action relies on roots seeking out moisture from below. Your autopot system can be expanded using extension kits, with multiple pots allowing for a range of crops to be watered. One of the great benefits of the kit is how easy it is to set up; you don’t need to fuss too much with connections or pipes or hoses, as it’s all very simple and self-explanatory.